SMOLENSK, 30 May (BelTA) – The trade between Belarus and Russia's Smolensk Oblast may exceed $5 billion by the end of this year, Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Dmitry Krutoi told journalists following his talks with Acting Governor of Smolensk Oblast Vasily Anokhin on 29 May, BelTA has learned.
“Certainly, Smolensk Oblast is one of the most important Russian regions for us, it is one of top three trading partners of Belarus. A week ago, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko asked at the meeting where our cooperation with Smolensk Oblast stands given that the regional administration has changed here. I told the president that I would travel to Smolensk in a week. The head of state conveyed certain wishes to the acting governor and confirmed that we are going to stick to our broad agenda,” said Dmitry Krutoi.
He emphasized that Belarus and Smolensk Oblast should explore new avenues of cooperation, and that was exactly what was discussed at the talks with the acting governor. “Last year our trade grew by 13% overall. This year we are also moving at a good pace: we have an increase of 8%. And we need to keep in mind that we can achieve the $5 billion milestone by the end of the year,” the diplomat noted.
In 2022 the trade between Belarus and Smolensk Oblast was estimated at $4.9 billion. “If an official delegation of Smolensk Oblast visits Belarus in the fourth quarter of this year, I think that the matters of trade will be discussed separately at the meeting with the president. This trade has certain specifics: our main import item is gas, and this is not because we get Russian gas from Smolensk Oblast, but because the region is the entry point to Belarus and this is how gas deliveries are statistically recorded. We need to balance out such large volumes of imports with other deliveries,” Dmitry Krutoi explained.
He noted that Belarus exports a wide range of goods to Smolensk Oblast. “We should say that Smolensk acts as a logistics hub for a number of goods, primarily trucks, tractors and other types of Belarusian equipment,” the ambassador noted. “To be such a hub, it is necessary to create appropriate conditions related to customs clearance, payment of recycling fee and other important procedural aspects as well as preparation of equipment for sale and promotion to the regions of Russia. Smolensk has these competitive advantages and uses them with skill,” the diplomat noted.
“We have made great strides in the field of agriculture. In addition to usual trade in agricultural products, which is traditionally very robust, we agreed with the acting governor that programs on animal husbandry, breeding stock and poultry farming will get a strong impetus. He invited Belarusians to take an active part in such programs. We will start with Vitebsk Oblast, so that these projects get a kind of regional status,” the ambassador added.
Smolensk Oblast is set to implement large-scale infrastructure development programs. “If everything goes as planned this year, we might ship a large batch of buses of various designs to upgrade the region's passenger transport fleet. This will be the first such delivery in a decade,” said Dmitry Krutoi. “Utility sector is another promising avenue of cooperation: a great many projects in water treatment, water intake, and sewerage were announced. Our enterprise Polymerconstruction has a portfolio of successfully implemented projects here. The acting governor promised to provide a list of services that new facilities need, and this list is going to be big,” he said.
“Next thing is road construction. The acting governor enthusiastically embarked on such projects, federal financing came. Yet, unfortunately, only Vitebsk road builders are involved so far, they have received a fresh order worth RUB 500m to build 100 km of roads. Now we we will try to sign up road construction companies from other regions of Belarus, because the governor announced a big program worth several billion Russian rubles. He was quite happy with the Belarusian quality, he personally inspected some completed road sections, he praised Belarusian builders, so we are going to keep it up. In addition to that, an ambitious program to build social infrastructure facilities is in the works in the region, and Belarusians got a promise to be the first in the line to get these very lucrative projects,” Dmitry Krutoi added.